CARDIFF — Veteran rugby centre Mike Tindall will lead England against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff today.
The 32-year-old was confirmed as captain by England manager Martin Johnson yesterday with usual skipper Lewis Moody ruled out of the game having strained his knee ligament in his side’s 23-19 victory at Twickenham last weekend.
Tindall, who sat out the recent Twickenham clash that came in the wake of his high-profile marriage to Zara Phillips, is no stranger to the captaincy having led England throughout this year’s Six Nations — steering the side to the title.
Tindall partners Shontayne Hape in midfield while Toby Flood reclaims the number 10 shirt where he will partner Richard Wigglesworth with Ben Youngs still sidelined following knee surgery.
Nick Easter, Tom Wood and Hendrie Fourie form a new-look back-row with Alex Corbisiero, Steve Thompson and Dan Cole set to pack down in the front row.
Lock Courtney Lawes has recovered from the neck injury he sustained in a recent trial match and partners Louis Deacon in the second row.
Looking ahead to the game, Johnson said, “Last weekend’s match was hugely competitive and we expect more of the same as we prepare to travel to the Millennium Stadium. We took a lot out of (last) Saturday’s game and this weekend gives the selected players their opportunity and a chance for us to improve our overall performance.”
And in addition — England’s decision to recall Hape into the centres was immediately defended by boss Johnson. “I think Shontayne brings a heck of a lot, but a lot of people don’t understand it,” he said. “For a lot of last season he was probably our best defender, he gets you over the gainline and he’s a very smart player.
“He doesn’t do the one or two eye-catching things that people remember. He does 80 minutes of good solid work. When you speak to opposition coaches, a lot of them rate him very, very highly so I will sit here and defend him all day.”
As a result of the latest selection, winger Ugo Monye, scrum-half Joe Simpson, props Tim Payne and Paul Doran Jones, back-row Chris Robshaw, will not have been used prior to the 30-man World Cup squad announcement due on August 22. Monye, Payne and Doran-Jones have all been released to their clubs to play a pre-season match this weekend.
In addition, scrum-half Ben Youngs and prop Andrew Sheridan will also not have seen any game time due to the fact they are still battling back from injury.